The Greatest Bread Erika Has Ever Tasted

Once this loaf was out of the oven it was hard to keep the girls away from it and after just one bite Erika proclaimed it was the best bread she had ever tasted. The recipe is from Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day. The title won me over when I saw it at the library last week and it really was easy and fast. For the full recipe, check out the book because it goes on for six pages or so with lots of details. I will give the abridged version here.

Boule (Artisan Free Form Loaf)
Makes four 1 pound loaves and is easily doubled or halved

3 cups of lukewarm water (about 100 degrees, or slightly warmer than body temperature)
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (or 1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons course kosher salt or 3/4 tablespoon table salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all purpose white flour
handful of cornmeal

1. Mix warm water and yeast in a large bowl that has a lid (not airtight). I used a 3 quart glass Pyrex bowl with a lid.

2. Mix in all the flour at once. The recommended way to measure it out is to scoop it up by the cup full and use a knife to level the top. Mix with a wooden spoon, mixer, or by hand until there are no dry areas. You don't need to knead! The dough will be spongy and wet-- you want that.

3. Cover with a lid and let it rise for about two hours and then refrigerate at least three hours, preferably overnight.

4. When you're ready to bake (I waited until the next day), sprinkle some flour on the entire dough mass which is still in the bowl and use a serrated knife or scissors to cut off a grapefruit size chunk of dough.

5. Dust the chunk of dough with some flour and pull the top around to the bottom from all sides until you have a nice ball. This should take less than a minute. The directions in the book made this step seem kind of complicated, but their website shows just easy it is here.

6. Liberally dust a wooden cutting board (the book recommends a pizza peel) and place the dough ball on the boards and let it sit, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

7. 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a baking stone or upside down cookie sheet on the middle rack in the oven. Place another pan somewhere else in the oven where it won't get in the way of the bread.

8. Before placing in oven, dust the top of the bread with flour and use a serrated knife to slash the bread about 1/4 inches deep in whatever awesome design you wish.

9. Pop the loaf onto the hot cookie sheet and quickly pour 1 cup of water into the other pan (this creates steam, which makes for a very crunchy crust.

10. Cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy! Store leftover bread (I doubt there will be any) by placing it cut side down on a plate, uncovered.

My bread didn't turn out very pretty, but is still tasted great!

High School Musical

The girls have been into The Sound of Music for months. Audrey comes over to the computer and requests the "baby cuckoo" scene from the movie and can watch it over and over again. Erika picks and chooses her favorite songs from the film on Grooveshark and dances around endlessly, singing and twirling all over the living room. So, when we heard that the theatre at Corey's old high school was putting on The Sound of Music, we knew we had to go. We didn't think Audrey could sit through the three hour performance, so she stayed home and watched the movie with her Boppa while the rest of us went to the show.

And it was awesome. I was so impressed with the singing and dancing! It was so professional and obvious that a lot of work had gone into it. There was a live orchestra playing all the music and we were able to peek down there a bit at intermission. And Erika sat and watched intently, singing when her favorite songs came on and smiling the entire time. I'm totally sold on high school theater after this weekend's show. I can't wait to take Erika again, and hopefully to a shorter show that Audrey can join us for.

From the Library

I had a chance to go the Library alone this week! I found a ton of good reading for myself, but also a few things that Erika was pretty interested it. First, I got The Illustrated Book of Myths, retold by Neil Philip, which is full of Myths from all over the world. This book is not written for four year olds, so a lot of it went over Erika's head, but she really loved how fantastic all the stories were. People were being born of animals and of mud. Man was made again and again in so many ways with so much drama. It was right up her alley.

I also checked out Greek Gods and Goddesses by Gereldine McCaughrean. In the introduction McCaughrean writes, "the Gods... were marvelous. They ate magic food, covered astounding distances, wielded wonderful weapons, heard and answered whispered prayers, worked amazing magic." What four year old wouldn't love that?!

To balance out the heavy reading, I also checked out A Birthday Present for Mama by Nicole Lorian and Eloise and the Snowman by Lisa McLatchy. Erika really likes the Eloise books at the moment and spent a long time reading and re-reading that one. Then she ran off to find Audrey so she could pretend to be her nanny.

Pasta Landscape

Weeks ago this post at The Artful Parent made we want dye all the pasta in our house. I resisted the urge until I saw Fiori pasta at the store last week. This pasta is flower shaped and just right for this flower hungry time of year.

I put a few drops of food coloring and a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol in a plastic container with the pasta, put the lid on and shook until it was evenly dyed. Then I laid it out on some wax paper to dry. It was dry in the time it took us to make sandwiches for lunch and eat them.

When I was a kid I remember making landscapes with my mom using seeds and beans glued on to paper. We made hills, trees, and always a house. Maybe we only did this once or twice, but it stands out in my mind as a strong memory. So, I outlined some shapes that Erika wanted in her landscape: a tree, a sun, a cloud, flowers, dirt, and, of course, a flower fairy and a stage. Then I applied glue and she stuck Fiori pasta and we talked and worked. What was great about this project was that it required her to place the pasta down one by one. She stayed really focused and told stories about the pasta pieces as she worked. These two are talking to each other, she would say, and these are running away.

Audrey liked the dyed pasta too, as you can see from this week's 'moment' below. She sat and strung this stuff for a very long time, with her little tongue stuck half out in concentration.

Let us Eat Cake

For Corey's 32nd Birthday Erika and I made chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. This family loves chocolate. I added some strawberries just to make myself feel better about all that sugar. And butter. And cocoa.

I followed the recipe exactly for the cake and it was pretty great. It was slightly crumbly, but I think a few more hours in the fridge would have done the trick. I didn't have the fudge that the frosting recipe called for, so I omitted it and used all butter rather than butter and shortening combined. Next time I will add the fudge because if you're going to make a cake this chocolaty, you should just go for it.

The girls each painted a picture frame for their Dad. Erika drew pictures of herself and Audrey to put in the frames because I wanted Corey to pick out the photos that went in them, but the drawings are so cute that he might just want to keep those in there instead.

Bread and Butter

I've been sick with a cold for a few days and all I wanted today was some fresh bread. Last week I made this French bread I found over at Joy the Baker. It didn't rise properly so it turned out kind of dense. I had to try again. I wish I had followed the link from her site to Steamy Kitchen where there is an awesome French Bread tutorial for novices like me. But, I didn't check that out until the bread was cooling. I guess I'll be making this bread again soon.

But even without the tips, today the dough rose beautifully (I used hot water rather than warm- I really need a thermometer in the kitchen....) and it was just what this achy body needed. I warmed up a can of tomato bisque soup with it and, not to my surprise, it didn't quite match up to the bread. Hey, I'm sick. I can only do so much.

Sunday in Detroit

Today was MOCAD's monthly family day and we made pinatas! We met some friends there and the girls glued tissue paper onto some pre-made paper mache balls. Audrey colored over the tissue with marker and Erika wanted to made a cat, so I cut out some shapes and she glued a face on the ball. They're so fun that I hate the idea of filling and smashing them!

This project didn't take quite as long as last month's collaging and stuffed animal making, so, with some extra time on our hands, we headed over to the Heidelberg Project. This large outdoor, ever changing, "art environment" has been created out of the trash that Tyree Guyton and his family collected from their neighborhood in Detroit. It is quite a sight, and so much fun for the kids!

Stained Eggs

Tomorrow is the Spring Equinox, and also the Iranian New Year, or Norooz. This welcoming of Spring and celebration of rebirth are celebrated with two weeks of festivities. The Haft Sin is a table set up with various symbolic items and today, as Erika and I were setting this table up, I realized that we hadn't decorated any eggs. We set to work on these eggs with art tissue paper and water.

I put the hard boiled eggs in an old egg carton and the girls wet them with water and a paintbrush and applied small pieces of the tissue paper.

We left them to dry, went out to play, and ended up with these wonderful eggs when we came in! Don't they kind of look tye-dyed?

Dear Erika,

I am sitting here in the living room and you are around the corner at the dining room table, playing. I love to listen to you this way. With your imagination, you are never bored for long. At the moment you are talking to your latest imaginary friend "Justin" and, as usual, he is being silly and you are laughing at him. We just got home from a birthday party and you are telling him who was there and what you did. Slowly more people are joining you and you are all their voices. The voices of the whole world in this small girl. Sometimes, no matter how closely I listen, I can't get the story line that you are following and I love that. You are in your own world, totally engrossed in something that is beyond me; living your own life within the limits of these walls.

Before you were born I read this poem by Kahlil Gibran and it struck a chord with me:

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Now, more than four years later, I see Truth in this that I never could have imagined when I first read those words. I am constantly amazed at how you and your sister can be such a part of me, your Dad, this family, and how much you are each simultaneously a person all your own. Your path lies before you, limitless. And I feel so honored to walk with you some of the way.


The end of the day is always a little hectic around here, but with the time change and beautiful weather, we ended up playing outside way longer than usual and I had no dinner planned by the time the girls were hungry and grumpy. To top it off, I hadn't gone shopping, so the fridge and cabinets were looking a little bare. I usually panic at time like this; I like to be prepared and have a plan. But, the cool breeze, warm sun, and sidewalk chalk were calling us, and sometimes you have to give a little.

This is what the kids ate for dinner last night:
Salami sandwich
Goldfish crackers

My A-ha! moment came as I was preparing all this in haste. Instead of making them a plate, like I usually do, I let them serve everything themselves. I put each food in it's own dish with a small spoon and set the table. The girls sat down and each put whatever they wanted on their plates. Not surprisingly, they ate really well because it was so fun. Was it messy? Of course it was. Was it hard to stand back and not interfere? Yes, it certainly was. I am making a real effort to loosen the reigns a little bit and yesterday was a giant leap for me.

Catching Dreams

Erika had a bad dream over the weekend and woke up in tears, calling for her Dad who she had dreamed had gone to a concert without her (how dare he!). Flipping through the Kids' Multicultural Art Book that we renewed from the library after the awesome projects we did a few weeks ago, I saw a dream catcher and knew instantly that Erika would love making one. Dream catchers originated with the Chippewa and were later adopted by other Native Americans, like the Cherokee. Hung above the bed, bad dreams are thought to get entangled in them, while good dreams pass through the center (make sure you leave the center open!), down the feather, and into the dreaming person's mind. Lovely, huh? We thought so.

This project was fairly quick and Erika could do almost all of it herself (I had to figure out how to add the feathers so they would stay and tie a few knots for her). This tutorial shows more or less what we did, except we didn't put beads in the web and we had only one dangling beaded string.

{this moment}

From SouleMama:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Happy Friday, friends!

Belle Isle

I've only lived in Michigan for three years, but people who grew up around Detroit have a lot of memories of Belle Isle. With the zoo and aquarium closed due to budget constraints, there a lot of lost memories too. I hear that in the summer it's still quite busy and full of activity, but it certainly seemed quiet on this barely spring day. Maybe it was because I had these images from Sweet Juniper in my head as we headed over to the island, but it's hard not to feel a sense of loss in this place. The kids, though, had a great time- oblivious to what this place used to be or could be, and focused only on what it is now.

The Nature Zoo has frogs, turtles, snakes, and a bird viewing area. We saw some Cardinals and Red Winged Black Birds (which my friend told me means that spring is here!), and later outside we spotted a hawk on the fence! There is also a deer encounter where you can feed the deer through the fence. We headed over to the Conservatory where we wandered around the lush plants for a while. It was really a treat for the senses which have only seen evergreens for the last five months. And did I mention all this was free? Yeah, FREE!

The kids had a great time. The moms had a great time. I'm excited to have found a new place for the warmer days ahead.

Glitter and Glue Collage

I was inspired after looking through a few books by MaryAnn Kohl that we checked out from the library this week. Erika doesn't really like to get messy, so this project really forced her out of her comfort zone. First, I took three small plastic bowls and put some glue, food coloring, and glitter in each one. Not sure why I chose food coloring, which turned our hands green and blue- washable paint would have worked just as well I think. We used yarn, toulle, and feathers to dip in the glue and stick on a piece of matte board.

Erika's hesitation quickly evaporated and she was more interested in squishing the glue in her hands than in the collage. I put a few wet paper towels in a bowl for her to wipe her hands off whenever she wanted and that helped a lot. This idea is so simple and so useful for this age, but it had never occurred to me. MaryAnn Kohl has lots of other great ideas in First Art and Preschool Art.


The snow is melting and we are seeing signs of spring everywhere! A matching pair of ladybug rain boots, melting snow, and 55 degree weather were all we needed for a perfect afternoon today. The neighborhood kids were out and they all tromped around, rediscovering their favorite spots and screaming with delight. I almost put my shovel away, but then remembered that I did that last year only to be mocked by this fickle Michigan weather.

Glorious Morning Glory Muffins

I've had this recipe saved in my bookmarks under "yum" for a few weeks and finally made them today. I made some changes to the recipe after reading a few reviews and they turned out pretty darn good. The girls really liked them. Especially warm out of the oven with butter. Lots of butter.


2 cups all-purpose flour (I used I cup whole wheat and one cup white)
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots (about four medium carrots)
1/2 cup raisins (I used dried cranberries)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (I left this out)
1 apple - peeled, cored and shredded
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (replaced with 1 cup applesauce)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin tins or line with cups. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

2. Shred carrots and apple and add to raisins (or cranberries) and walnuts.

3. Mix all of the above.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, and oil (or applesauce).

5. Mix with dry ingredients from above.

6. Now scoop into your muffin tin and pop in the oven for 20 minutes (more like 25 minutes for me). As you can see, I stabbed each poor muffin to make sure they were ready because at 20 minutes they were still pretty runny in the middle.

7. Now get the butter and enjoy!